Trainer Said It Was An Ingrown Toenail

Published: October 01, 2013
Dear TeeenHealthFX,

I went to the trainer at school because my big toe was swollen and really hurt. He said it was an ingrown toenail and I should see someone. What does that mean?

Dear Trainer Said It Was An Ingrown Toenail,

Ingrown toenails are a common, painful condition that results when the side of your nail grows into the soft tissue of that toe. It is usually a condition of the big toe and can be a very painful, resulting in swelling and even infection. Many times people will manage this condition through self-care at home, however, TeenHealthFX advises its readers affected by this condition to seek a doctor’s (usually a Podiatrist) opinion to assess whether steps must be taken to prevent more serious complications. A consultation with a medical professional is particularly needed if the pain is intense, pus is present, or the redness seems to be spreading. The doctor can also remove the portion of the nail that is ingrown to prevent it from recurring. It sounds like your trainer gave you good advice and you should make an appointment to have your foot looked at right away to make sure it is not infected.

Ingrown toenails occur more frequently in those with unusually thick or curved nails, those who cut their nails too short, and those who wear shoes that tightly pack their toes together. Trauma to the toes is also a cause of this condition. Therefore to prevent this condition it is recommended to cut your nails straight across (as opposed to curved), to keep your nails cut at a moderate length (not too long, not too short), and to wear shoes that fit properly (or protective footwear that protect your toes).

FX does recommend that you consult with your doctor on how to treat the condition and manage the pain. You can also speak with your doctor about whether it would be helpful to incorporate some of the following self-care steps at home:

  • Soak your feet for about 15 minutes, three times a day, using warm salt or soap water. Salt water can be made using one teaspoon of salt for every 2 cups of warm water. Hopefully this will relieve your pain as it helps in reducing the inflammation. You can then place the edge of a toothpick or some cotton under the edge of the nail where it is ingrown to help it grow on the outside of the skin.
  • Although you fear wearing open toed shoes and sandals it would be better for you to wear footwear that keep your toes open so that they are not irritated.
  • FX does not recommend that you use over the counter pain medications long term but you can use them temporarily to ease the pain. Such medications include Tylenol, Motrin, Advil, Ibuprofen, and others.
  • You can use an antibiotic ointment over the area to prevent an infection from occurring. You should bandage the area over the ointment to keep it in place.

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network medical providers.



Signed: TeeenHealthFX